Connie’s old marvel eyes 19th win at Crookwell

Connie Greig’s old marvel Billy Bent Ear made it career win number 18 at Tottenham on Saturday. Image: Racing Photography.

We’re running out of superlatives for the old warhorse, Billy Bent Ear, who, at 11, is racing in career-best form. 

The Bon Hoffa gelding, who’s been wowing spectators since 2015, has started in an incredible 145 races, winning 18 times while finishing in the top three on a further 40 occasions, earning $265,975.

“You end up running out of ways to describe him,” Greig told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“I don’t know if you would ever expect a horse to run that many times, let alone win as many as he has. 

“The thing about him is that he’s done it all while racing on the tracks he’s been racing on.

“He is a little horse, and he’s sound, and that’s how he’s been able to do it.” 

Greig was ready to retire Billy Bent Ear late last year when he was injured and missed the $50,000 NSW Picnic Champion Series final at Coonamble, won by stablemate Inzaghi.

“He cut his hoof, and that’s why we had to scratch him out of the final, and he needed an extended spell,” Greig said. 

“I thought he wouldn’t come back; it was a decent slice, and whenever they hurt their hoof, it takes forever for it to heal. 

“Still, the farrier wasn’t worried and said it looked ugly but would be fine.

“I was happy to retire him, and it was fine if he didn’t race again because he owes us absolutely nothing, but we thought we would see how he goes, and he’s come back as good as ever.”
Since returning to racing at Bedgerabong in February, Billy Bent Ear has won two out of three. 

Carrying 71.5kg, he was just beaten by a flared nostril when going down to Japingka in the Bedgerabong Bracelet (800m) on February 10. 

Leandro Ribeiro was in the saddle again when he bounced back and won the 1000m Open Trophy Race at Condobolin on February 17. 

Then allotted 73kg at Tottenham on Saturday, Izzy Neale jumped on board for the three-kilogram claim, and the Dubbo galloper cruised to an easy length-and-a-half victory in the 1000m Open Trophy Sprint. 

“It probably took a little bit longer to get him right, but he’s an older horse, and they don’t generally need those big spells,” Greig said. 

“First up at Bedgerabong, he needed it and just got beat on the line, and the 800m was too short, and he carried 71.5 that day.

“He didn’t get any extra weight at Condo, and he was fitter and ready to go and won well. 

“Then, on the weekend, I just thought it was a big ask, carrying big weight and a lot of dead weight.

“I had two lead bags and a whopping saddle, and you feel sorry for them when saddling them up with so much dead weight.

“Don’t get me wrong, I had 100% faith in the horse and Izzy, and it was a good win in the end.”

It was just her seventh ride and second win for Neale, and while Greig usually teams up with NSW’s leading picnic jockey, Leandro Ribeiro, who wasn’t riding on Saturday, the Dubbo trainer was pleased to stumble upon the talented youngster. 

“I knew Leo wasn’t going there and was on a holiday, and I would’ve claimed anyway, and Leo knows that,” Greig said. 

“As much as he wants to win, he wouldn’t have wanted the horse to carry 73kg, so we got the three-kilo claim with Izzy.

“It was the first time I’ve spoken to her on Saturday, and she was a straight-up nice girl, and she listened. 

“She came back on Gossip and bagged her own ride, and for someone with only a handful of rides, she wasn’t trying to make excuses, and I told her not to worry about it.”

With Ribeiro locked in to ride for Darryl Rolfe at Crookwell on Saturday, Greig will again call upon Neale.

The pair will race Billy Bent Ear in the 1000m Open Trophy Race and Linden Tree in the $11,000 Funny Hill Cup (1400m), among other chances on the South East program. 

“Leo has other rides, and we never had him for this meeting, so I’ve got Izzy again,” Greig said. 

“To be honest, I wasn’t going to go, but I needed another 1400m Cup for Linden Tree.  

“He’s probably got enough points now (for the Picnic Champion Series), but I thought we would try and get a couple more before he goes to the paddock.

“All of the next Picnic Cups are a mile at Ardlethan, Tulli (Tullibigeal), and Bourke, and it wasn’t going to suit him, so I thought we’d go to Crookwell, and when I asked Izzy if she had any rides, she didn’t so I got her.”

With Billy Bent Ear set to carry another big weight, it could very well be his last hurrah at the picnics. 

“He might get 75/76kg, and if he wins again, I will probably have to take him back to Sky meetings,” Greig said. 

“He’ll be (a benchmark) 58 or 59, and it will be hard for him, and they will force him into retirement.

“It’s a pity because he’s older and goes well at the picnics; we’ll just see what happens.”

It’s always a good day at Crookwell, and there is a good array of South East, Southern Districts, Central Districts and Western Districts trainers taking their horses for the six-race picnic program.